The photo-sharing platform Instagram hit 100 million users in September. The app’s simple interface and filters essentially let mobile-phone users snap, edit, and post images wherever they go. Given its popularity, Instagram also offers a marketing vehicle for any entrepreneur who has a smartphone.
Stefanie Hiebert, co-owner of the vintage boutique and mobile business Oh So Lovely, has more than 58,500 followers on Instagram. She says, “Since we have a mobile shop, Instagram is a great way of letting people know where we’ve traveled to and set up for the day. … It also acts as free advertising for our bricks-and-mortar boutique, because we post photos of our new stock and that gets people interested and brings them through our doors.”
Here are five tips for using Instagram to promote your mobile business:
- Engage with others. Instagram is similar to Twitter, but instead of writing 140 characters, you’re posting images with artsy filters and short captions. Often, the Twitter users with the most followers and retweets are those who follow and retweet others. Instagram enables similar interactions, such as “favoriting” and commenting on images. Use these features to start relationships with other Instagram users — and build your following in the process.
- Use hashtags in your captions. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but your photos will be easier to find on Instagram if you add short, descriptive captions. Instagram uses hashtags (with the # sign before the word) similar to Twitter’s, so insert them to indicate location (#Boston, #NYC, etc.), relevant keywords (#holiday2012, #glutenfree, etc.), or special events (#SXSW2013, etc.). You can also share images with specific users by using the @ sign and their names, as you would on Twitter.
- Don’t go overboard. Hiebert says that some Instagrammers post constantly, which she considers overkill. “In my opinion, all they are doing is over-saturating the feed, which in turn is making their photos less special and interesting to look at,” she says. “I would rather post one really good photo every day or so than post a bunch of mediocre photos every day. Less is definitely more.”
- Get creative. The more original the image, the more likely it is to catch other people’s eyes. You can also jazz up common subjects like a bowl of fruit or a golden retriever by shooting them from an unusual perspective or adding one of Instagram’s filters. “It is good to be unique and take photos of things that you really believe in, rather than trying to just copy someone else’s photo feed,” notes Hiebert. “People really respond well to originality in images.” Thus, you may want to avoid the 12 most cliché photos on Instagram.
- Stay on message. Build a consistent brand identity by focusing on your niche, whether it’s vegan lifestyle products, upcycled jewelry, or, in Hiebert’s case, retro fashion and housewares. “The majority of the photos that we post are pictures of various mid-century furniture and retro knick-knacks from our homes. We also post photos of some of our favorite clothing items from our closets,” she says. “We try to stay consistent to the style of our blog when posting photos on Instagram. That way, if people like what they see on our feed, then they will like what they see on our blog.”
Photo courtesy Stefanie Hiebert.